Film Year: 1956
Genre: Science Fiction
Director: Cy Roth
Starring: Anthony Dexter, Paul Carpenter, Susan Shaw, Harry Fowler, Sidney Tafler, Jacqueline Curtis, Jan Holden, Rodney Diak
MST Season: 4
An expedition to the thirteenth moon of Jupiter discovers a colony made by Atlantis, but the civilization is dying since there are only women left. The astronauts save one of the women from a monster, and they are welcomed into the civilization, where it is hoped that the new men will save them from the beast and become their husbands.
Fire Maidens of Outer Space is written, produced, and directed by Cy Roth. I'm surprised it's not starring Cy Roth as well, but maybe the man had enough on his plate. Roth only directed three movies, with the other two being military based movies Combat Squad and Air Strike. Apparently both are not a whole lot better than Fire Maidens.
While being a bit of a genre departure for Roth, Fire Maidens of Outer Space feels as if it's genre is incidental as it most likely was conceived as a male gaze fantasy. It presents a "What if...?" scenario that's meant to entice men as we watch characters who are inserted into a tropical paradise fully of scantily clad women who are desperate for lovers. If the premise of this movie had held off until the 70's or 80's it likely would have been the premise of a porn film. In fact it probably is the premise of a porn film. Or about fifty porn films.
All of this is to entice guys into theater seats as they create a fantasy in their heads that is more exciting than the film they're watching. The titular Fire Maidens do a few alluring dances that are meant to show off their bodies, but there's nothing too titillating about these scenes (it is 50's cinema, after all). But it becomes evident these scenes are the only reason the film was made, because the plotting is excessively padded, desperate to pump this underdeveloped film to 70 minutes. This isn't even mentioning the cheapness of the film, with sets as simplified as possible and even a monster that's little more than a rubber mask and a sweater.
In the end, I've seen worse than this, though Fire Maidens of Outer Space isn't as endearing as it could be, especially when it's as campy and cheap as it is. It's more or less a "whatever" of a bad movie rather than a memorable one.
There is a dark force invading the Satellite of Love...a dark specter named Timmy has taken the form of Crow and creeping around. Timmy initially acts like Crow's friend, but acts increasingly more hostile as the episode goes on: attacking Cambot, telling Crow the wrong things to say, and messing with the controls to everything in existence. The theater segments even get in on letting the story unfold as Timmy sneaks into the theater and sits in silence for most of the third theater segment, eventually attacking Tom Servo. All of this leads to a host segment that parodies Aliens where Joel fights Timmy ("Get away from him, you bitch!") and blasts him out the airlock. This is really one of the most enjoyable host segment arcs in the history of the show.
With all that's going outside of the theater it might be forgivable to forget that the riffing for this episode is actually pretty damn terrific. It would be easy to fall short on a movie this padded, but Fire Maidens of Outer Space actually gives them more to work with than you'd think. The Fire Maidens themselves alone make the episode, as the concept of this girl group sparks many riffs around sororities and cheerleaders. If that sounds misogynistic to you then you haven't seen the movie, since they're simply playing off the film's misogyny in turn. Even when the film pads itself beyond all reason the riffing finds new ways to turn it into an entertaining experience, having fun with the idea that the director is an "auteur" of some sort and embracing the padding as Cy Roth's vision. And at other points they get frustrated with the film's slow pace and vent it out with sarcasm. At no point was I ever bored with Fire Maidens, which is a miracle unto itself.
Also as a minor note of episode importance, the letter read at the end was written by a girl named Ashley, who compares Tom Servo to her brother. Ashley grew up to be a musician and was invited by Joel to participate in the Kickstarter that helped relaunch the series during the 2015 Turkey Day as well as the concluding Kickstarter live telethon.
This is an episode that seems to delight me at every turn, as it gives me some of the best laughs in the entirety of the fourth season. It's an episode that I believe all MSTies should have in their collection and keep in rotation often. This episode is pure MST magic, with a perfectly cheesy movie, great riffing, and unforgettable host segments. If you haven't seen it yet, make it the next episode on your list!
Fire Maidens of Outer Space is disappointingly one of the eleven unreleased episodes on home video. It's very unfortunate because this is one episode that should be preserved for prosperity on home media, and it's probably the best of the unreleased eleven. It's host segments were however compiled onto the Satellite Dishes disc of Shout Factory's Volume XXXIX set.